Why Walking 10,000+ Steps A Day Can Keep You Healthy
I am 77 and walk at least 12,000 steps a day.
Start today with a spring in your step. Pardon the pun but if one of your new year's resolutions was to exercise more but you haven't got around to starting yet, you might want to consider walking. The benefits are many and your body and mind will love you for it.
In my thirties, forties, and fifties, I ran every day for exercise. I also ran in 5K and 10K runs for the fun of it, played tennis, racketball and skied. I was a reasonably good long-distance runner in my youth, running in both road and cross country races. I also played rugby. a game that is very unkind to the knees.
Due to the troublesome knees, I took up walking and hiking in my sixties and it has had a measurable impact on my health. My resting pulse is 55. My blood pressure, always on the high side of normal in my working years, is now a reasonable 75 over 130.
When I set myself a daily walking goal, I began with 5,000. I later read a number of articles about 10,000 steps being the ideal number, this being equal to 8 kilometers or 5 miles a day. There are many online articles on the pluses of setting a daily walking goal. Some health experts are of the opinion that 10K steps are a worthy goal and others, the opposite. The way I look at it, walking for thirty to sixty minutes a day is better than lying on a couch for an equal amount of time. Not only is the exercise beneficial, but the fresh air clears your head and the surrounding scenery is good for your psyche.
My personal daily goal is now 12,000 steps or around 9.6 km or 6 miles. I have a Samsung phone that comes with a Samsung health app with a built-in pedometer that I use to monitor the number of daily steps I have taken. I also have set up an Excel spreadsheet on my laptop to keep track of my daily average.
At one point, I came down with a severe head cold and was in bed for a few days. When I was back on my feet, I was able to get my daily average back up by including several 20,000 step treks over the following two weeks.
Based on a number of articles I had read such as this one from the Harvard Medical School, "10,000 Steps A Day - Or Fewer", the ideal daily goal for a person my age is between 7,500 and 10,000 steps.
One statistic stands out and that is walking is a lot easier on one's knees than running according to Harvard Medical School. While you will not get the same physical benefit from one hour of walking compared to one hour of running, adding an extra half hour or hour onto your walking schedule and walking at a different pace from time to time will make up the difference. Try and include some uphill stretches on your route as your heart will thank you for some mild cardiovascular exercise.
There are many types of walking styles with various range of benefits:
Ambling. Hands in your pockets walking, just taking in the scenery and perhaps pondering on the facts of life.
Strolling. Usually done with a friend or friends. It can include a stop for coffee or a seat in a park. Benefits? Fresh air and friendship can do wonders.
Walking steadily. Done with a destination in mind or a set number of steps.
Walking briskly. This is upping the ante. Here, you can be walking alone or with a friend and the goal is to exercise for a set period of time.
Power walking. Generally done alone for a set period of time or achieving a set number of steps and with the goal to get some real exercise.
Race walking. Usually part of an athletic club program and designed for the fanatical walkers.
Marathon walking. This is for those who are very fit and love being challenged.
Hiking. This involves lots of uphill and of course, downhill. It's not for the beginning walker and can be tough on older knees.
Nordic walking. Nordic walking was originally a summer training program for cross-country skiers using walking poles to power the upper body.
Now, before I go for my daily power walk or I am planning a walk with a destination in mind, I slip my phone into my pocket. I try to average around 12,000 steps a day but sometimes it can be 15,000; other days if it's raining or I'm not feeling so peppy, I do 8,000 to 10,000. If I'm walking by myself, I invariably powerwalk for a good part of the time which provides me with some cardio benefit as well.
Using the Excel sheet and the step counter app and has made me more diligent in my walking. Together, they are the coach that keeps me going. I now use them as a challenge I have to face each day to complete my daily 12,000 steps.
Like any good habit, walking every day, rain or shine is a difficult one to get into. Since using the step app, however, I have found my daily walking habit has become something of a fix and is becoming more and more difficult to break, come rain or shine.
There are many pluses I have benefited from with my step habit as I call it now. I keep my weight down and pass my annual physical with flying colors. I've reduced my blood pressure and I generally feel good about myself, particularly on the odd occasion I bust through the 20,000 km mark. I try and achieve this secondary goal a few times a month.
I have found a good pair of walking shoes is a must. Cheaper ones can wear out quickly so splash out and get good ones. Your feet will love you for it. And while you are about it, get good quality socks.
What are the other benefits of walking? I'm glad you asked. According to a report on the US National Library of Medicine, walking one mile a day, every day can reduce your chances of dying from cancer by 40%.
Twenty years ago, I was diagnosed with Melanoma; one incident on the sole of my right foot and the other on a toe on my left foot. I had surgery that successfully removed both Melanomas and required no further treatment although I do have to see a dermatologist once a year for a skin checkup.
A few years later, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and after much debate with my wife and considerable research decided to have a prostatectomy. This procedure too was successful with the cancer caught in time requiring no further treatment although I did have to have an annual checkup by my specialist for the six years following surgery. The third strike by the persistent cancer was a diagnosis of testicular cancer in my early seventies, very unusual as it is commonly a young man's infliction. However, this too was caught in time though resulted in a testicle removal. Again, I required no follow-up treatment. Recently, I had a procedure for a brown spot on my left cheek and a biopsy revealed in-situ Melanoma. I had that removed by a very proficient plastic surgeon which left me with a minimal scar.
Having seen the effect radiation and chemo treatment have had on several friends who were not been as fortunate as me, I thank my lucky stars. I do think my exercise regime has had a lot to do with my successful battle with these various cancers.
With all my cancer treatments, I attribute my survival to four things; one is self-checkups. Another is the very good medical system I live under in Canada. I look after my health and the fourth is; my daily regime of 12K steps.
I think that being active mitigated the degree of the various cancers I was diagnosed with along with early treatment though this is just my opinion.
If you have a sentient job or spend a lot of time each day at your desk or at the computer, make a point of getting up every 30 minutes or so for a 5-minute walk break. If you have stairs, two or three times up and down the stairs will add to your daily step total. Every step counts so if you plan on creating a walking regime, remember to keep your phone on you in your pocket or a smartphone pouch at all times.
Studies indicate people who take 8,000 steps a day compared with those who take 4,000 steps a day generate more benefits. People who take 12,000 steps a day have a 65% lower risk of dying than those who took only 4,000 steps. But even 4,000 steps a day not only provide some weight loss but will also provide you with a feeling of accomplishment. According to the National Institute of Health research, the number of steps you take each day is more important than step intensity.
If you are starting out, my advice is to begin with a minimum daily goal, say 2,000 steps, and gradually work up from there. If you have stores close by, forget the car and walk. Take a backpack with you if you need to do some light shopping. Take the stairs if you live in a condo or apartment building. You will lose weight, lower your blood pressure and simply want to feel better about yourself. Fresh air mixed even with mild exercise is a great elixir.
Unless you are confined to an electric handicap scooter or a wheelchair, there is no excuse for not improving your overall well-being. Keep in mind, the benefits you will receive will not happen overnight. It's a gradual process but if you need to lose a bit of weight, build an energy reserve and just generally feel good about yourself, don't think big right away. Start small but think and plan big.
The following is an outline of a plan for you to get started.
- If you can, set a scheduled time each day to begin your walking to a new you.
- Download a step app to your smartphone. If you don't have a smartphone, consider on average, there are 2,000 steps in a mile or 1.6 km. When I first began, I used a little clicker counter I bought at a dollar store until I got a smartphone app.
- Set a number of daily steps you want to achieve in the first month.
- Commit to yourself you will walk this number of steps through month one.
- Beginning month 2, raise your target by 500 or 1,000 steps and the months following.
- Reward yourself for each goal achieved.
- Remember, bad habits are easy to fall into. Good habits don't come easily. If you miss a few days, hit the reset button and start again.
- Persistence is the name of the game. Challenge yourself on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
- Think about your overall diet. If one of your goals is to lose some weight, consider what you eat and how often you eat it. Its calories in and calories out. Try and get a balance between the two. There are many websites that can provide the advice and encouragement you need in this regard.
- Last but not least, I have found the app to be a great motivator as I can check the number of steps I have taken at any time of the day. You will be surprised at how many steps you take in just the course of a regular day.
Go to it and good luck.
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